At the content heart of this ambitious project is a commitment to highlighting the Jewish contribution to the world while avoiding Jewish hubris and self-aggrandisement. Around this very general idea emerged an early articulation (2014) of the content domains of the institution which was wide-ranging and very extensive both in terms of areas of Jewish contribution, historical periods and outstanding Jewish figures.
In 2018 and 2019, at the initiative of the Matanel Foundation, a series of 50 interviews were conducted in Israel by Dr. Noa Shashar. A booklet containing the central ideas which emerged during the interview process will appear shortly in Hebrew. While participants provided much valuable commentary on the idea of the WJM, they were not asked to help provide the narrative we are currently seeking. The leadership of the WJM therefore decided to embark on an expedited content deliberation process in order to develop the core content. This will ultimately enable RAA (Ralph Appelbaum Associates) to move forward on the internal design of the institution and provide more clarity for the fundraising efforts worldwide.
Joseph Schwab, the father of modern curriculum theory, developed in the 1970’s at the University of Chicago the concept of a ‘Curriculum Deliberation’. Following John Dewey, this is a process of carefully considering competing content alternatives from a variety of perspectives in order to deliberately define and then hone the ultimate product.
The process calls for a relatively small group of outstanding thought leaders, content specialists, and experts in representation of ideas, who each write a short paper (no more than 5 pages) and then come together to brainstorm based on the written papers, in order to create a well-crafted narrative that is to become the basis for the next stage of content planning and of fundraising. Their task is to create a thoughtful, focused narrative which makes it possible for museum designers to produce an exciting experience or experiences which help visitors reflect on ‘what makes the Jewish people tick’, which articulates core ideas and values which have kept this people together, and which connects between our ancient past and the modern pulsating State of Israel and city of Tel Aviv.
RAA is accompanying this process in order to provide experience, expertise and a ‘feasibility test’ of some of the ideas that emerge.
This takes place right at the height of the Covid-19 worldwide crisis. Any plans that involved bringing groups together, first locally and then internationally, seem a pipe dream today. On the other hand, Covid-19 may just have offered us not only a severe challenge but also a great opportunity. One of the concerns which all of us had regarding the prominent names the project sought to involve was their availability and the very long lead time which is so often necessary in order to bring these individuals together. We have, over the past 2 months, been able to recruit 16 outstanding thought leaders, from Israel, Europe and the North America, scholars and museum practitioners who have committed themselves both to write an initial ‘narrative’ and then participate, by Zoom, in a series of intensive consultations and brainstorming.
The group is currently at work developing their individual papers while the Zoom-based consultations will take place at the end of June and into the first two weeks of July.
It is still our hope that in the early fall it may be possible to convene a final face-to-face meeting of the thought leaders in order to refine and finalize the proposal for the ‘Content Narrative’ of the Museum which will be brought to the Board of Directors for discussion and approval.
Dr. Noa Shashar holds a Ph.D. from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, (Department of Jewish History) and is a professor at the Department of Cultural Studies at the Sapir Academic College (from 2012). Her academic research focuses on the history of the Jewish family. Noa holds a B.A. in History of the Theatre from the Hebrew University and a Masters in Gender and Judaic Studies from the JTS branch in Jerusalem. Born and raised in Israel, she lives in Jerusalem and is a mother of five and grandmother of 2.